Doing groceries is always a distinct experience from country to country and their differences are the main (if not the only) aspect I will notice.
When I moved to the UK, I was expecting British supermarket to have a better eco-friendly approach, especially after following some British sustainability influencers on social media. I thought initiatives, such as paper bags or reusable cotton bags to replace plastic bags would be the normalised here. But instead, I have been experiencing most of fresh fruit and vegetables wrapped in single-use plastic bags. And it can be as bizarre as one wrapped avocado…
According to study by Greenpeace, in 2019 UK supermarkets produced more than 896,000 tonnes of plastic packaging. Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year, and plastic pollution is now the biggest killer of marine life.
Due to Covid-19, some people claim that they prefer packaged fruit and vegetables because it keeps food more sanitary. It discourages handling, squeezing and pinching by the customers.
However, this is not true. Plastic packaging is full of chemicals that could affect our health because they infiltrate in our food, according to Leonardo Trasande, pediatrician and author of Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Our Future and What We Can Do About It.
Growing up as Portuguese, it is taught from generation to generation several tricks to know when fruits and vegetables are ripe and make sure they will be savoury. For instance, we knock on watermelons to know each one of them as the biggest hollow sound, and consequently, is the sweetest one. We even weight with our own hands each orange to see if which one is juiciest. So, let me keep being a typical Portuguese consumer, who needs to touch everything in order to decide whether or not they are going to buy.
British consumers are also ready to evolve. A poll conducted by Populus revealed that 91% of the UK supports the idea of having products free of plastic packaging.
Supermarkets have room to improve and to be a significant ally to the environment.